Many years ago—and I’ve long since forgotten the context—radio broadcaster Barry Farber informed a caller in his distinctive tone of voice, “He that correcteth me handeth me a gold coin.” Being the recipient of a correction, I know, is often unwelcome and a difficult pill to swallow, but it’s sometimes an invaluable learning moment. When mean old Sister Camillus humiliated me in front of my elementary school peers by nastily proclaiming, “Imagine a fifth grader who doesn’t know how to spell 'paid,'” I was indeed handed a gold coin. Granted, I didn't appreciate it at the time, but I never misspelled “paid” as “payed” again.
The Corrector Class has mushroomed in size in the new millennium. The Internet and social networking sites have in fact empowered the formerly powerless, who can now prove how smart they are by correcting their fellow men and women in all kinds of venues. People of all ages, and in all walks of life, are literally lying in wait to catch our mistakes and point out our blunders and missteps to the wider world.
A recent discussion board comment from a fellow writer struck me as at once timely and right on the mark. Responding to a question concerning the pluses versus minuses of plying in this trade of ours, he noted how he receives precious little positive feedback when he gets things right, which is the norm. And when he does get a modicum of credit for a job well done, it’s typically a long time in coming and breathlessly short in its approbation. However, when he errs in the slightest, heaven forbid, the Corrector Class pounces in a nanosecond to broadcast the errors of his ways.
Happily, even amidst the sprawling virtual rubble, there are still countless gold coins to be harvested. But there are also more counterfeits than ever before in the brush. All too many members of today’s considerable Corrector Class appear more interested in inflating their rather poor self-esteems than offering genuine gold coins to their fellow world travelers. This is both a little sad and very annoying. Sister Camillus, where are you when we need you?